Friday, December 2, 2011

Do Plants Have Minds?

The guiding idea of this literature seems to be, first, that plants do in fact act, and they act in ways which, when animals act that way, we are disposed to think of as signs of intelligence. Some examples: plants orient and react appropriately not only in response to light, but also wind, water, predators, quality of soil and the volume of available soil, among many other factors.

Granted, by human and animal measures, plants are very slow. But surely it is prejudice to think that only movements and responsiveness that occurs on time scales that seem natural to us count as legitimately expressive of intelligence and mind.

Wittgenstein once remarked that it is only of what looks and acts like a human being that we say that it thinks, it sees, it wants. Wittgenstein was not advocating chauvinism; he was calling attention to the ways in which our conception of intelligence — of mind — is bound up with ways of acting, coping and responding. Indeed, we see this idea at work in discussions of plant intelligence. Scientists are assembling cases that bring out clearly the ways in which plants do look and act like human beings. You just need to look carefully....

Read the full article from NPR blog 13.7

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